NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A jury in Los Angeles on Wednesday ordered Philip Morris Cos. Inc. to pay more than $3 billion – the largest individual award ever in a tobacco case - to a 56-year-old man with cancer who claimed the tobacco giant did not warn him of the health risks of smoking.|
The verdict, was reached on Tuesday after nine days of deliberations by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury and read out in court on Wednesday. The damage award included $3 billion in punitive damages and almost $6 million in compensatory damages.
Philip Morris will appeal the verdict.
Richard Boeken, who suffers from brain and lung cancer, sought $12.37 million in compensatory damages and between $100 million and $10 billion in punitive and exemplary damages from Philip Morris. He accused the cigarette maker of fraud, conspiracy and negligence.
Lawyers for Boeken, a securities and oil broker, claimed at the trial that he began smoking Marlboro cigarettes at age 13 and did not become aware of the health warnings until the mid-1990s.
Bill Ohlemeyer, associate general counsel for Philip Morris, said for the jury to reach a verdict like this on the evidence they heard is outrageous.
"It strains credibility to suggest that he wasn't aware of the risks [of smoking]," Ohlemeyer said.
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Boeken's lawyers argued that his client was a victim of a decades-long tobacco industry campaign to promote smoking, and Philip Morris has concealed the serious dangers of smoking.
Ohlemeyer claimed that Boeken has ignored health warnings about the dangers of cigarettes and chose to smoke despite the risk.
The lawsuit is the first smoking and health related lawsuit to reach trial in Los Angeles. It was the second blow to cigarette makers in a week. On Monday, a New York City jury ordered major tobacco companies to pay $17.8 million to cover the health costs of ailing smokers.
Shares of Philip Morris (MO: Research, Estimates) shares fell $1.75 to $48.25 after hours.
- from staff and wire reports